Law: Reflecting on how we got to Super Bowl LIV
Charlie Law | Tuesday, January 28, 2020
We’re finally here. After months of slugging it out all over the country, enduring injuries and painful losses, two teams have fought their way to the top of the NFL. We only have one week of football left until next August, so let’s take a moment to look back and appreciate the journeys of the San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs.
The 49ers started the season predicted to finish third or fourth in their division, headed for yet another season of disappointment and a top-10 pick. When they started off the season with seemingly impressive performances in two straight double-digit wins against the Buccaneers and the Bengals, everyone wrote it off as an easy start to the schedule. The Niners would soon be revealed as the below-average team everyone surely knew they were.
But they continued to win, beating the Browns by 28, the Rams by 13 and the Panthers by 38 en route to an 8-0 first half of the season, proving they were no fluke and no pretenders to the NFC crown. They won two of three games in a brutal stretch featuring the 8-2 Packers, 9-2 Ravens and 10-2 Saints, further cementing themselves among the top few teams in the league.
But their season almost crumbled before their eyes as the 49ers watched Russell Wilson rally the Seahawks from a 12-point deficit in the fourth quarter of the last regular season game of the year. The last time a team without a first-round bye made the Super Bowl was the 2012 Ravens; if the Seahawks stole the NFC West from the 49ers, the Niners would have the odds stacked against them to make a run in the postseason.
But Dre Greenlaw made a tackle about an inch shy of the goal line to save the No. 1 seed for the Niners, and after a week of rest that allowed them to return three defensive starters, the 49ers rolled the Vikings and Packers to find themselves in the Super Bowl.
The Kansas City Chiefs, on the other hand, strutted into the 2019 season ready for the Super Bowl after they missed it last year by the slimmest of margins. They returned MVP quarterback Patrick Mahomes and the scariest passing attack in the league, and revamped the defense so Mahomes might not have to throw for 50 touchdowns again. And they looked the part to begin the season, winning four straight games, including a victory over Lamar Jackson and the Ravens.
But then the injury bug bit Mahomes, slowing him down throughout the middle of the season, and the Chiefs quickly found themselves at 6-4 with the Raiders breathing down their necks at 5-4. When it seemed the Chiefs might slide into a Wild Card spot or even out of the playoffs, Patrick Mahomes reminded the world that he, not Lamar Jackson, is the best quarterback in the NFL, as he re-ascended to his 2018 MVP form and led the Chiefs to eight straight victories including the playoffs.
After the Chiefs fell behind 24-0 against the Texans in the Divisional round of the playoffs, Mahomes lit up the scoreboard so much that the Chiefs ran out of the fireworks they shoot when the team scores — no, really. He has looked unstoppable so far this postseason, but now, he faces possibly the best defense in the league. Will it matter? Probably not, but Nick Bosa, Richard Sherman and company aren’t as easily shrugged off as the Texans and Titans defenses.
If I wasn’t such a huge 49ers fan, I would absolutely be rooting for the Chiefs in this game for one reason: Andy Reid. Reid is one of the best coaches in league history. He has led 15 of his 21 teams to postseason berths and coached in 28 postseason games. Yet Reid, even after last weekend’s AFC Championship game victory, has only a 2-5 record in conference championship games, and he lost the only Super Bowl he has appeared in as a head coach.
Plus, Reid legitimately seems like a genuine and kind man. If anyone deserves to win the Super Bowl, it’s Andy Reid. Moreover, the 49ers have won five Super Bowls to the Chiefs’ one. It’s only fair, right?
Nope. Come Feb. 2, I will be wearing my George Kittle jersey and screaming like a madman for the 49ers to get number six.
If anyone was to beat the 49ers in the Super Bowl, though, I’d like for it to be Reid.